Author: Jen Sotlongo
You will be hard-pressed to find a better running partner than your dog. They are always eager to get out the door, no matter the weather. They don’t care about your pace, how far you go, and they never complain.
If you already road run with your dog, try hitting the trails a few times per week. A quick escape from the urban grind will reduce some stress for both you and your pup. Plus, regular cardiovascular activity benefits both you and your dog mentally, emotionally, and physically.
So leash up your best friend and find the nearest single track to experience the joy of trail running side by side.
It Will Get You Out The Door
Like humans, dogs require daily physical activity in order to stay healthy. Luckily for us, they are great motivators to get us outdoors. While we may feel lazy, tired, or pressed for time, those sad eyes staring back at you will keep you going out the door each day.
That or a destroyed shoe or couch.
A dog with too much energy can be destructive, so a run in the woods will keep them out of trouble and ready for a nap when you need to head to work or leave them at home for a bit.
Discover New Places
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut or go to the same familiar routes you’ve run for years because you lack motivation or perhaps have felt nervous to venture to new trails on your own. Bringing your dog along will give you that inspiration to seek new spots and confidence by having a buddy along.
For those with reactive dogs, look for low-traffic trails so that you can enjoy your time together with less worry of running into off leash dogs. Both of you will be able to enjoy the trail run with far less stress.
Do It For The Health Benefits
Running will of course help keep your dog healthy by maintaining a healthy weight, developing strong muscle tone, and improving the cardiovascular system. With the right training, many dogs can run with their humans for quite long distances, so if you’re thinking about a marathon in your future, then your dog may very well be able to join you on the training.
Your Dog (and You Too!) Will Love Running in the Woods
Humans aren’t the only ones in need of a nature fix. The trails bring new and exciting smells than what your dog finds in your neighborhood. Plus, if they can be off leash, they get to experience a bit of freedom that they might not otherwise have at home.
If you’re used to running on pavement or asphalt, dirt paths will be a treat for you both. It’s softer on a dog’s pads and on your joints. The quiet and solitude will benefit both your and your dog’s mental health by exposing you to new sights, sounds, and smells away from the hustle and bustle of the regular work day.
Reduce Anxiety for (You and) Your Dog
Some dogs tend to feel more anxious in the city with all the cars, people, and noise. Take them to the woods and they’re a completely different dog. With fewer sounds to scare them, they will build their confidence and take the opportunity to explore their surroundings more than they would in the city.
Strengthen Your Bond
Trail running requires you to focus just as much, if not more, on your dog than your pace and mile splits. Depending on the distance you have built up, you may be spending hours at a time alone together on the trails.
It may seem like running with a dog just means you travel at a faster pace than you do walking around the neighborhood, however it’s not really the case. A lot of dedicated training goes into creating the ultimate running buddy, especially if you want your dog to be able to run off leash.
Depending on the terrain and width of the trail, running requires a lot of communication and trust between a dog and their human. If you run tethered to your dog using a waist belt and bungee leash, you need to trust that your dog won’t drag you down a steep hill or veer off after a creature and yank you to the ground.
A few essential training commands for running include:
- Heel is essential when you spot people or dogs up ahead and need to keep your pup with you, not in their space. It’s also great for getting an Instagram shot together.
- Back or Follow means your dog needs to stay behind you on the trail. This could be on a narrow single track frequented by other users, especially mountain bikers and you need to ensure that your dog does not run ahead.
It’s also crucial for those who run tethered for going downhill or navigating technical trails when you need full vision of the path in front of you.
- Slow comes in handy for those who run with their dog on leash and need to navigate a tricky section, like a steep downhill or river crossing.
- Wait means that your dog must stay where they are and wait for you until you release them. Perhaps you see other dogs or people up ahead, a water crossing, technical trail, or you just want them to stay within your vision.
- Pull! helps with uphill sections or when you need a little boost. It works best using a waist belt and bungee leash. Animals tend to speed up with quick, high pitched sounds in sets of three, so you might try something like pull! pull! pull! to get your pup excited and charging you up that climb.
- Recall is essential for any dog off leash in order to maintain good trail etiquette and to keep your dog away from wildlife.